Month: August, 2007

Historic Rugby

Saturday, August 4th, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Travel

En route to our evening’s accommodations, we were stunned to pass through Allardt, Tennessee (population: about 650), whose “downtown” consisted of just a smattering of storefronts… until we arrived at Rugby, Tennessee, population: about 85.  That’s eighty-five!

Located on the Cumberland Plateau, at the southern edge of the Big South Fork National Park, Rugby is an authentically restored Victorian village. It was founded in 1880 by British social reformer and author Thomas Hughes, best known for his novel Tom Brown’s School Days, and named for his beloved alma mater Rugby School in Warwickshire, England. Hughes envisioned the new Rugby as a cooperative, class-free, agricultural community for the sons of British upper class families, who due to economic recession, could not find local placement in traditional professions. Rugby is now comprised of some 20 preserved buildings, including workshops, overnight lodging (cottages and inns) and the Harrow Road Café whose menu still caters to traditional British Isles specialities: shepherd’s pie, fish (well… catfish) and chips, bangers and mash, and an off-the-menu welsh rarebit (or originally: “rabbit”) which the owner kindly offered to whip up for us to take to back to the Newbury House’s kitchen when we arrived just as the restaurant was closing, having miscalculated the region’s shifting time zones.

Watch Mark Bittman make one – essentially an embellished cheese on toast.

Welsh rarebit

Having lived just about my entire life in New York City, I have to admit, I was unsettled by the utter remoteness of our evening’s accommodations. The complex would have been absolutely impossible to locate without the GPS. (In fact, even after being alerted by Garmin to our destination, we still missed it at first pass.) We never officially “checked in” with anyone: our keys were left for us in an envelope in a basket on the porch outside the house. (Not very secure, I could not help noting. You can take the girl out of the city…) All around us was darkness; in my paranoia-tinged state, the environs felt to me like the setting of every horror movie I’d ever seen: shadowy dirt paths, chirping cicadas, an eerily tranquil lake, a looming, quiet house, creaking staircases, darkened rooms laden with antiques…

It was all I could do to turn down S’s offer to share a bed with me, leaving J to fend for himself in a room down the hall.

In the early light of day, the house and grounds were far less foreboding, and actually quite lovely.

Newbury House

Newbury House

Newbury House

Breakfast at the café was included with our stay: more country ham, biscuits and still more country gravy!

Rugby breakfast

Rugby biscuits

To catch up: backfilling a few July posts

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Back to the Sale

Friday, August 3rd, 2007 | All Things, Travel

From Dayton, it was about a half hour’s drive to the 127 Corridor Sale.

Highway 127 Signs

We powered through intense, wilting heat all afternoon, stopping the car every couple miles or so to check out the sales along the way. We were surprised to discover after chatting with a few vendors, that although the official sale did not begin until Thursday morning, many professional dealers began hitting the route earlier in the week, to get first crack at the merchandise as the vendors set up for the weekend.

Which is to say, the best quality items had probably already been snatched up prior to our arrival. Still, with 630 miles of sales to trek, there was plenty yet to be bought.

Highway 127 Sale

Sale facilities. Having spent most of the day in a perpetual state of perspiration — some might even say, “sweating like a horse”–  I (thankfully) did not need to avail myself of these outhouses.

Highway 127 Sale

Highway 127 Sale

Highway 127 Sale

Highway 127 Sale

As we wound our way towards Jamestown, TN — the epicenter of the 127 Sale — traffic on the two-lane highway slowed to a crawl. I came thisclose to picking up a desk at our last (and largest) sale of the day, but decided to stand firm on the target price point I had previously established in my mind. No regrets: perhaps even less appealing than the idea of busting my budget so early into the trip was the prospect of spending the next 1,000 miles in the backseat crammed up against a bulky piece of furniture.

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Going ape in Dayton, TN

Friday, August 3rd, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Travel

That morning, we retraced our path to Dayton, Tennessee to pay a visit to the Rhea County Courthouse, site of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

It was a scorchingly hot day when we rolled into historic downtown Dayton. Just outside the still-working courthouse, a street was lined with about a dozen produce vendors, selling gorgeous, vibrantly-colored, homegrown fruits and vegetables from the backs of pick-up trucks. Also, jars of homemade preserves and “chow-chow,” which I learned from J (our resident expert on all things Southern), is a sweet, pickled relish traditionally utilizing vegetables abundant in summer’s harvest.

Dayton produce

Dayton produce

A plaque on the lawn outside the courthouse reads: “Here, from July 10 to 21, 1925, John Thomas Scopes, a county high school teacher, was tried for teaching that man descended from a lower order of animals, in violation of a lately passed state law. William Jennings Bryan assisted the prosecution: Clarence Darrow, Arthur Garfield Hays and Dudley Field Malone the defense. Scopes was convicted.” (The jury returned its verdict in nine minutes, and 25-year old Scopes was fined $100. He never returned to teaching.) The landmarked red brick courthouse was built in 1891, and restored for $1 million upon the completion of the Scopes Trial Museum in 1979. Every year, the town of Dayton and its Christian Bryan College – named for the prosecutor in the case — sponsor a re-enactment of the trial that is the town’s claim to fame.

We toured the two basement rooms of the museum (through which you could also access the one-room Rhea County Heritage Museum with its displays on the county’s notable native sons), which tells the story of the trial with large-scale black-and-white photos, newspaper clippings, memorabilia and information about the trial’s major players. On the way out, we had a rather eyebrow-raising conversation with the museum guide (during which I studiously had to avoid eye contact with my friends), in which he flatly rejected the notion that man could have descended from apes. I won’t rehash here, except to say that his strongest argument against the theory of evolution was to point out that one of the monkeys outfitted in a three-piece suit for the Scopes trial ultimately died, whereas human men were able to tolerate the intense Tennessee heat, “proving” once and for all the disparity between the species.

Would that I were joking.

Dayton Courthouse

Afterwards, we strolled along the two to three deserted blocks comprising the downtown area, and drawn to the old-school looks of it, decided to lunch at the Dayton Coffee Shop and Restaurant. The dining room was packed full of locals – most a good couple of decades our elders – and like every other eating establishment so far, the daily specials were handwritten on a board mounted to the wall.

Dayton Coffee Shop

By 1PM, the coffee shop was out of catfish, so S and I once again had vegetable plates. (Mac n’ cheese, by the way, apparently counts as a vegetable in Dayton. Not kidding.) As we expected, desserts were homemade — and at about $1.50 apiece, so inexpensive, it seemed almost silly not to try them: the egg custard and coconut cream pies, and a warm peach cobbler made with canned peaches, just like (J’s) grandma used to make.

Dayton desserts

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